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Aimpoint Clinic: My Personal Odyssey to Putting Enlightenment (Part III)

Part 3 of our Aimpoint Odyssey

AimpointDue to weather and time issues, I have not yet played a round. I have had a 2 hour putting practice session, and I spent 2-3 hours today charting 13 greens at my home course.

The putting session consisted of walking the greens, feeling changes in slope, seeing if I can predict the zero line, see if I can predict how much each putt breaks based on how far off the zero line and using the chart. At the same time, working on speed control (12 inch past the hole).

The charting session consisted of walking the greens, feeling changes in slope, seeing if I can predict the zero lines on different pin placements, identifying high and low points of the green, recognizing different green shapes, using my digital level to chart slope % on different parts of the green. I made a notebook of these greens.

I have also read and re-read the different resources AIMPOINT has as far as examples, message boards, and videos, to understand the more complicated stuff.

So far, after all of this, here is my status:

I am pretty good at feeling where the slopes change from uphill to downhill (inflection points), which is important. I can find the straight putts most of the time(>75% accuracy), and I can tell you which way a putt will break on most greens.

The hard part is understanding how putts act and how greens behave on crowns and saddles. I am starting to understand this. I am also starting to see the more subtle green features, as there are small crowns and saddles on sections of greens and this will affect the putt.

Today, after spending about 15 minutes on a green, I was able to roll the ball and predict where it was going to go, without really ‘reading’ the green. ‘Reading’ in the traditional sense of using my eyes… I used my feet to find the inflection points and correctly predicted the putt most of the time.

I still need practice, but I am very encouraged so far.

Tuesday March 22, 2011 — Update 2:

So I finally got out yesterday… a brief respite from the rain and the kids… played 10 holes by myself twilight… course drained pretty well, and greens were running at an 8. the greens at this course are quite big… it’s a links course, wide open, with big greens.. the greens are not drastic, but have subtle features that are not easy to see. the slopes were rarely over 2%, most of the putts i putted were 1-2% grade.

The fact that I was by myself with no one behind me was helpful. I felt like I wasn’t taking long with my reads… I don’t know. It’s hard to gauge when no one is waiting for you, but here are some results:

• Made one 15 ft putt
• 3 good lags from 40+ feet (less than 5 ft leave)
• 3 bad reads, thought they broke but were straight or overread break (but did not read the wrong break)
and 3 good reads but just missed the putt (either speed or did not hit online)

The hard part was knowing when a putt was straight. On a planar green, it was easy, but when the crowns were involved, it gets tougher… you have 4 zero lines instead of 2, and the putts on top of a crown are all pretty straight, so if the crown is broad, you have more straight putts (if the crown is not tilted).

Also, when the green double breaks, or the line runs into mounds, it’s a bit more complicated, and I’m still trying to figure it out… but the positive is I can feel and see the breaks, and I can figure out the AIMPOINT. I just don’t know how exactly to figure out the zero line on longer putts that change features.

I had one long 60+ foot putt (back of green to front pin location), and I was able to find that zero line 50 feet away and putt accordingly.. left a 1 ft putt.

On the putts inside 15 ft, I was able to use my chart effectively, I think… made good reads and AIMPOINTs.

…Keep in mind, all 10 greens, I did not ‘read’ one green with my eyes. When I use the word ‘read’, I’m talking about feel. I felt the slopes with my feet, tried to find the zero line, and aimed accordingly. I did roll a few balls after I holed out to try and predict what the putts would do.

I continue to be encouraged, and am pretty excited at the idea that I can be an expert green reader. I hope to play 3 or 4 more rounds in the next 2 months, and then contact the instructor for some more advanced green reading instruction.

About GK Member michaelko:
Our resident physical therapist from Northern California and one of the original GK Staffers. He is also one of the individuals responsible for making the GK Casual Golf Events possible. Way back when it was only an idea, michaelko, was one of those individuals that made it possible with our first outing of six members at Rio Hondo Country Club, Downey CA.

Keyword:  Aimpoint Putting Clinic

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Aimpoint Clinic: My Personal Odyssey to Putting Enlightenment (Part II — some Q & A)

Aimpoint Byron Nelson 2010

Part 2 of our weekly series on Aimpoint.

If you don’t mind I’d like to hear how you do in your first round using this.


I think it will take several rounds and several practice sessions to better understand the implementation. I am going to take the next 2 months and go out to my course in the evenings and study the greens. I will go so far as to make green charts, like yardage books, of each green. The explanation I gave refers to a straight planar green. when you have saddles and crowns it’s more complicated, and I don’t quite understand that yet.

It sounds interesting but i’m having a little difficulty grasping this zero line.


On a planar green, which is a flat tilted green… if you went around the hole and putted a 5 foot putt at each degree (so 360 degrees/putts), 2 of those putts would be 100% straight. That line is the zero line. Every break on every other putt is calculated off of that line.

In reality, for practical purposes, the actual zero line could span maybe 5 degrees, or the length of your foot. then you figure 30/60/90 degrees off of that zero line.


But how do you determine slope in degrees? For me I would think severe, not so severe, and non existent? Any way to pigeon hole these breaks?


They use %slope. flat= less than 1%, avg=2%, steep=3%, severe=4%. They say on tour, with greens running stimp >12, it’s never more than 2.5%… more than that the putt is too hard. Slopes more than 4% will rarely hold… they’ll roll down to a flatter surface. You might have to putt through a >4% slope.. they tell you how to handle that. But the charts they give you go up to 4%.

I bought a 9″ digital level that gives you %slope… so i’m going to calibrate my eyes to learn what these slopes look like.

About GK Member michaelko:
Our resident physical therapist from Northern California and one of the original GK Staffers. He is also one of the individuals responsible for making the GK Casual Golf Events possible. Way back when it was only an idea, michaelko, was one of those individuals that made it possible with our first outing of six members at Rio Hondo Country Club, Downey CA.

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Aerification: The Who, What, When, Where and Why I do What I do

Golf Course Maintenance - Aeration

Aeration Golf Course Maintenance

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I am Iain Sturge, golf course superintendent
I am Iain Sturge, golf course superintendent

It’s everyone’s favorite time of the golf season.


For the Golfer, it can be a nightmare; paying good money only to find out no one told you the course was recently maintained. (Thank Goodness for!)

For the Golf Course Superintendent or Greenkeeper it’s a good thing — relieving compaction, removing thatch, and amending the soil.

Perfect! Well, only if you are a golf green.

Like topdressing, Aerification is a necessary evil to maintain a healthy green. There are several ways to conduct the process, from using the smallest needle tines to iron spikes 16 inches long by 1-inch diameter. It is sound advice to anyone who has a lawn, sports field, or golf course with a wet spot, dry spot, compacted soil, just about any area that isn’t doing very well, to use aerification as the first and probably the best solution to fix the problem area. With golf greens and other areas around the course, routine aerification is done more as a preventative measure to maintain the health of the greens and other areas.

The Sand Columns from past Aerification
The Sand Columns from past Aerification

While heavily sanded, sometimes bumpy, slow greens after aerification are definitely not a golfers’ dream, but it probably is one of the most important things that my maintenance staff performs. An ideal soil profile should contain 50 % soil, 25% water, and 25% air. A few days after aerification, when the green has healed; returning to a normal surface, the green reaches this ideal proportion. As every day goes by, through normal maintenance practices and foot traffic from golfers, the soil becomes more compacted leaving it harder for water and nutrients to reach the roots. Please remember we are maintaining a living, breathing thing. It’s not static but constantly growing. Maintaining this proportion of soil/water/air allows the grass to be at it’s best, especially with the low height of cuts used when mowing the surface. If aerification is never performed, over time the roots will eventually be choked-out, unable to breathe, and will begin to thin out and die.

The most common technique used to aerify a golf green would be a ½ inch or 5/8 inch hollow core tine on a 2 by 2 pattern, meaning that every 2 inches you have a hole. This would be followed by a heavy application of sand. This sand filled hole allows water to flow freely carrying nutrients down to the roots as needed. One of the biggest benefits would be the reduction of compaction, allowing the roots to penetrate deeper, reducing the summer stress, and increasing the grass’ defense against disease. Like you, the healthier the green is the less prone to disease it is. Another great benefit is the removal of thatch, that spongy feeling layer on the surface of the green that turns a birdie putt into a bogey. This would most commonly be done 2 times a year or 3 times per year as the greens mature. You will find most superintendents will also aerify the greens with a much smaller

The Machine
The Machine

hollow core tine or a small solid spike or needle tine, this is not very disruptive to play and the putting green is returned to normalcy within a few days, this can be done as much as once a month.

The actual process of aerifying a green is not, on its own, very costly, but the closure of the course and loss of customers during the week following has a larger cost impact. This brings us to why when you look on the website, my course, Hidden Valley in Norco, is the only red flag the first week of July. We listened to our customers. We capitalized on a slower time of the year and picked up other courses’ golfers from the typical spring and fall aerification seasons. You may think that’s only one time a year, but I have been known to aerify twice in 2 days. First, with an 8-inch long solid spike, relieving compaction at a much deeper level, allowing my water to carry sodium out of the soil profile. This is followed the next day with a ½ inch core tine 2 by 2. Plus, I like it hot! Sand goes in easier and grass heals faster.

The mess maker.
The mess maker.

Whatever method used, it’s the Greenkeeper’s choice. It’s part of a necessary process to maintain a healthy green. We temper this because we know it is disruptive. We try to make this maintenance period as short as possible. It’s no secret about the work I do. It’s my job to make the impact of maintenance as little as possible. This is where communication to you, our customers, is so important — Thanks to JohnnyGK and Consider this, at the end of the day behind every great golf green there has to be several days of down time where maintenance must be performed; even Augusta National closed for 5-months before the Masters. I am not saying I need to shut down our golf course, what I am saying is if you want great playing conditions certain concessions need to be made to help keep the condition of the golf course superior. One of these concessions, aeration, although disruptive, allow me to produce consistent playing conditions you have come to expect from my golf course.

Some Additional Information about Iain. . . .

Who the hell are you? I am Iain Sturge, golf course superintendent, Hidden Valley Golf (Now at Bear Creek Golf Club, Murrieta- CA)

Just After Sanding
Just After Sanding

Course, Norco, California, 34 year-old tall skinny guy from England. Been working on golf courses for around 25 years, different labor laws there. For those 25 years I have been lucky enough to work on some prestigious golf courses, including, Woburn Golf & Country Club, the host of the British Masters and the Ladies British Open, and happy to be part of the early stages of Bandon Dunes Golf Resort, fantastic golf course to be playing every afternoon.

Educated at the Oakland Agricultural School in North London with pig farmers and horse breeders, which also covered turf horticulture. Moved to the big old U S of A, at 22 years-old, after 8 years, 6 states and a hell of a photo collection I have decided to call Southern California home.

After spending many a morning logging into the website and finding it amusing, reading peoples variety of opinions about their golf experiences based on course conditions. I will not lie to you, going to work on a Sunday morning, after no sex the night before, after spilling coffee down my white shirt, pulling up to the gate realizing my keys are still in the kitchen, then finally making it into the office with my coffee stained shirt, to see complaints about common maintenance practices, makes me fall off my trolley. So as my course is in Norco, Horsetown, USA, I decided to get off my high horse and if you can’t beat them join them — I volunteered to write a few columns on the site, just explaining why superintendents do what they need to do.

It is my hope a little knowledge will go a long way for many of you to understand what I do to make your golf experience enjoyable and memorable. Because let’s face it, any day is a good day if you’re playing golf.

Keywords:  Golf Course Maintenance, Aeration, Golf Maintenance Schedule, Consistent Product

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